Food can be so confusing these days. Everywhere you look we’re being told something different. We rely on experts to tell us what to eat, but there’s so much contradicting information, it’s almost impossible to know what’s right anymore.
And then we can’t help, but feel bad because no matter what we do, we are in the wrong according to some source. Not a fun way to live.
For us as human beings, it’s a primal instincts to eat in order to sustain life. If you go back in time before the American diet became a part of our vocabulary, we as a species, never worried about what nutrients were in our food and most of them were healthier than those we are eating now.
I’m not a scientist nor am I a formally trained nutritionist. I have, however, done my fair share of research to understand and be more curious about what’s available to us. I will always believe that natural is best.
We’ve lost our intuition when it comes to food. We’ve stopped listening to our bodies and are only hearing what the outside world is telling us. I think this is backwards. Listening to our body is the one thing we can take responsibility for and create lasting change in the way we feel.
So what does it mean to eat real food?
Are you so overwhelmed you don’t know where to start?
I’ve got you covered. Consider this your holy grail when it comes to how to navigate through the confusion in the grocery store. I’ve put together my top 15 tips for happy and healthy eating.
This is your starting point to stop the madness and simplify the way you eat. If we can take away the confusion there’s more space to listen to your body and enjoy eating again.
1. Eat Real Food
Get rid of the crap. Stop eating stuff that you can’t pronounce. If it has a shelf life that’s longer than your pet's life, don’t put it in your body. Artificial anything, excessive sweeteners, and anything that’s been overly processed is not what we’re meant to consume, no matter how many advertisers are trying to market its benefits to you. A lot of foods that are considered ‘healthy’ are actually some of the biggest culprits. Be curious, ask questions, and read labels.
2. Keep It Simple
These days food is so overcomplicated and all of a sudden it is all about nutritional components, calories and calculations. When did food become about math equations? Eating well doesn’t have to be complicated. Real food is good food. It’s about adopting new way of thinking, that’s really an old way of thinking. It’s about eating food that our bodies naturally know how to process, without chemicals, additives or fillers.
3. Eat What You Can Pronounce
Start looking at the ingredients of what you’re eating. Is the list super long? If you can’t pronounce it, chances are you should be avoiding it.
4. Avoid Anything That Has Sugar as One of the First 3 Ingredients
Sugar is one thing that’s added first to products in order to essentially get you hooked on it. And watch out for sugar in disguise - there are 56 different terms that are used instead of the word "sugar", so avoid anything with fructose, sucrose, glucose, dextrose, and syrups of any kind.
5. Don’t Go for Things That Have a Big Health Claim
Low fat, fat free, high fiber, etc. Usually these items will have something added to them in order for them to have the same consistency or flavor. And it’s usually extra sugar, salt or chemicals.
6. Start on the outside Aisle of the Grocery Store
All the fresh, real food is found on the outside aisle of almost every grocery store. Start on the outside and move in for your good pantry staple options and frozen food.
7. Make Friends with a Local Farmer
Get to know where your food comes from. If it comes from a small and local farm, chances you can ask how they plant and harvest their produce and also, if you’re a meat eater, how the animals are treated and what they’re fed. If you don’t have access to a local farm, start asking more questions at your grocery store to learn where things are sourced from.
8. Eat the Rainbow
Trying new things keeps your body guessing and opens up more opportunity to get a full range of vitamins and nutrients. Trying new things and mixing it up is good for the soul as well. Variety is the spice of life!
9. Take Control over Salt and Sugar
Try to buy most things that are salt or sugar free. This way you can add your own and know exactly what’s in your food. Try finding unsweetened or salt free versions of yogurt or soups/stocks.
10. Listen to Your Body
When you’re making changes to how you eat, pay attention to what your body’s telling you. This way you can find things that make you feel your best. Make note of what gives you the most energy and what doesn’t feel so hot. Your body will also tell you when you’re actually hungry and when you’re full. Pay attention to it.
11. Feed Your Gut
Your gut is the epicenter of your body. It dictates so much more than just your digestive system, it also affect your energy levels, immune system and even brain function. Find foods that are high in probiotics; yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and all other fermented foods.
12. Get in the Kitchen
The one way you can be sure about the kind of food you’re eating is if you make it yourself. You can be in charge of how your food is prepared and what you put in it. It doesn’t have to be hard if you have real ingredients and some simple techniques that just take a little bit of practice.
13. Be Curious
I always ask the questions; do I know what I’m eating? Do I know where it came from? How it was made?
14. Be Mindful
Our culture today is addicted to the busyness. How many times a day do you hear someone say, "I’m so busy"? In order to ‘get it all done’ we’re now rushing through meals, eating on the go and on scrolling through our phone at mealtimes. We don’t give ourselves time to sit and enjoy a meal without distractions. We’ve lost the space to step back and listen to our body’s intuition. Put down the phone. Create space at meal time to acknowledge what you’re eating and how you’re nourishing your body.
15. Create Habits, Not Restrictions
We do this so often in our lives, we restrict ourselves and then feel horrible, if we set ourselves up to fail. Healthy habits include all of what I’ve talked about above, knowing what we’re putting in our body and being mindful. What you eat is one of the most important components to your energy and how you feel everyday. Make a choice to take responsibility and to be curious. Take the time to listen to your body and figure out what works for you. Healthy habits should be about what makes you feel good. Do what brings you joy. How are you bringing fun and lightness into your life everyday?